Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Just Exactly Like a Swiss Watch...

About half the staff suffered from diarrhea after Saturday night’s dinner including myself. There is nothing worse than teaching a class with uncertain bowels. The good news is if you have to leave class for shooting diarrhea the student’s barely bat an eyelash. Let’s hope we all fare better at tonight’s school dinner, a birth anniversary for Surgit an Indian teacher whose wife and new babe are in Kerala. Today was a good day in the classroom especially with class six who are enthusiastic learners. Then there is 8B a great group of individuals who form a vexing dynamic. Of course I love both sections of eight since I know all the students from teaching them last year. My success story is Kezang a boy who used to disdain shoes and have a dripping nose and dusty gho hailing from a remote village in the hills. As a boarder he has blossomed physically and emotionally into a remarkable student and class leader who speaks more than anyone. Today he raised his hand and asked, “How did this poem make me feel?” Now this might not sound like much but Bhutanese students refuse to ask questions without prodding them. This is because most native teachers don’t encourage queries preferring to exclusively lecture (even beating for wrong answers) I’m pressing on speaking but there are some girls in class 8 that cannot overcome their shyness for even an utterance. In certain ways teaching Bhutanese students is a cake walk and in certain ways it’s like moving mountains. The student’s attitudes are great but they are not keen on critical thinking or participation since Bhutan is a place where uniformity and conformity are wrapped up in one’s duty to God and Country. Since I’m not sure what if any god the Bhutanese Buddhist adhere to it’s more a duty to culture and Buddhism. That’s what’s so cool I’m still not exactly sure what binds them so tightly together but I guess the family that prays together stays together. And nowhere is it tighter wound than a boarding school but there are far less acts of rebellion as one might think. Minor statements like hair gel or bracelets are more common than displays of anger, alcohol abuse, or fighting. The most extreme display are homemade tattoos (done with cactus needles) which are prevalent but mostly these kids have their heads on their shoulders as you can observe while they’re planting or dancing together. Their attitudes and love of culture is genuine and about the only thing they don’t enjoy doing together is speaking English. As a teacher it is my duty to devise plans that will encourage them to speak. They have to speak so you must put them in situations to do so without “forcing” them. This is the challenge especially when the students furtively crave by the book rote learning since that’s what they are accustomed to. If you think by my third year I have it figured out you’d be wrong but I am growing as a teacher here and am more effective now than before. I have vastly improved as a Literature teacher but need vast improvement in grammar. One thing I am doing more of this year is marking even though it consumes copious amounts of time, especially since I am stressing revision and therefore and marking multiple drafts. With Over a hundred students you can imagine this can be a daunting task.

Dinner was a feast of Indian chicken curry with sumptuous sauce, pork on the bone, and requisite emadatsi. Butterfly was fluttering about busing tables and serving drinks on behalf of his friend, there is a precise order to these events starting with tea working up to alcohol and then food and a quick dispersal, overall the events run two to three hours. I got tired making small talk and listening to an endless stream of Sharchop this can be a downside of living here, but if you live in your imagination and groove to the beat of your own percussion than that’s also an upshot, you can mentally check out until needed. But the advantage of working in Bhutan is the people you interact with on a daily basis all have the ability to communicate in English. The Bhutanese are Dorji’s of all languages meaning they know up to five languages apiece. Before dinner I spun the wheel watching a plump red moon rise over the dragon’s tail with the twinkling orange lights of Lumla as a backdrop to the celestial show, meanwhile the students were at their dirge in the MP which careened into spooky spaces unfamiliar to this alien ear. Their drones resemble an angry hive of wasps before reemerging into a zenith of male and female voices rising to the Guru’s heavenly throne. Its powerful stuff knowing many of the voices inside undistinguishable in the chorus, for me a mitzvah just being here to witness it. Now trying to find a routine to establish more order and healthiness into life, as Camile would say “remember it’s a marathon not a sprint”


Gazebo and Cypress

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